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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Bedford Twp. design law revision starts

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - With pencils in hand, 10 people sat around two rectangular tables last week and began scratching out sections of Bedford Township s controversial architectural ordinance.

Starting with the rules that govern professional business offices, or PBO developments, an ad-hoc committee of township officials, members of the Bedford Business Association, and members of the Bedford Industrial and Commercial Association waded through the 39-page ordinance.

They tried their best to capture the spirit behind the 2-year-old commercial building rules while making them far more accommodating to local developers and business owners. They will be at it again this afternoon and most every week for the next several months until they craft something they are all able to live with.

The discussions got very serious right from the start.

“This first sentence,” said builder William Decker, Sr., looking down at the book of paper below, “there are big problems with it.”

The sentence, which declares that commercial buildings in the township should have the look and feel of residential properties, is at the heart of much of the debate between the two factions. Mr. Decker, who draws on decades of building huge custom-built homes and businesses across the area, pointed out the flaws.

“This indicates that you want residential materials, but residential materials are inferior in quality to commercial materials,” Mr. Decker said. “What you re trying to say is that you want residential design features instead of materials.”

Pencils scratched. Lines were drawn on page after page around the table. And the day s first consensus was reached in a matter of minutes.

It was an amicable start to what has been a contentious problem in Bedford Township since the architecture, lighting, and landscape ordinances were first passed by the township board in August, 2002.

The original ordinances were 14 months in the making, involving dozens of township residents. But when they were enacted, several local business owners said they were caught unaware by the changes, and that they presented a threat to their continued commercial existence.

After several months, township officials agreed to look at a series of amendments to the ordinances to find a middle ground.

The products of their previous meetings - revamped ordinances dealing with lighting and landscape issues for commercial properties - are to go before the township board as early as Tuesday for a vote. The township and county planning commissions have approved the amended ordinances.

Over the next 90 minutes of that meeting last week, the committee waded through topics as varied as building size, roof pitches, and color schemes. They commented on past building projects, some that had gone right, and others that had not. And perhaps most importantly, there were no flashes of temper, no recriminations, and no stubborn refusals to compromise.

Longtime township trustee Med Barr, who is chairing the meetings, said progress has been made with the committee because everyone is working together for the betterment of the community.

“When we came here today, you notice that nobody wanted to scrap the whole thing. They all agree that we need some standards. We just have to make them so that everybody can live with them,” Mr. Barr said.

But Mr. Barr cautioned against becoming overly optimistic.

“This really is the easy part. The hard part is going to be when we try to figure out at what point these rules are going to apply to current businesses when they want to make changes.”

The committee will pick up where they left off at 3 p.m. today in township hall.



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